Sunday, December 31, 2023

Holiday Catch-Up on Oscar Films, Part 2

We continue with the holiday catch-up on potential Oscar-nominated and other award-winning films.

Frederick Wiseman's 
Les Menus Plaisirs--Les Troisgros
Les Menus Plaisirs--Les Troisgros
: The day after Christmas, I went to Film Forum for Frederick Wiseman's latest masterpiece Les Menus Plaisir--Les Troisgros. I knew it was four hours long and that would probably be the only chance I would have to see it. This 44th doc from the 93-year-old legendary filmmaker did not make the Oscar shortlist for Best Documentary Feature, but was named Best Nonfiction Film by the New York Film Critics Circle and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Why did Oscar snub this fascinating portrait of a Michelin 3-star restaurant? Maybe it was the length?

I admit there were moments when I dozed off, but the overall effect was overwhelming, detailing every aspect of the three family-owned restaurants in the south of France. We watch the chefs buying produce at the local market, discussing whether or not to include rhubarb in the asparagus and whether the sauce should have shaved or whole almonds, preparation in the kitchen, lunch service at 350 Euros a head, visits to cheese caves, cattle ranches, and vegetable farms. In the past few years, I've been enraptured by Wiseman's take on the British Museum, Boston City Hall, the New York Public Library system and my own neighborhood of Jackson Heights. This film adds to the collection of comprehensive portrait of institutes.

Saturday, December 30, 2023

B'way Update: Year-End Rumors; Best Play Tony Contenders

Will Stereophonic move to the Golden?
Credit: Chelcie Parry

The calendar for the 2023-24 Broadway and Off-Broadway season appears to be set, but there could be a few additions before the Tony deadline of April 25. There are rumors that Stereophonic, David Adjmi's well-reviewed, three-hour play about a rock group not unlike Fleetwood Mac recording an album vital to their careers, which recently closed at Playwrights Horizons, may move into the Golden Theater. Playwrights has coyly announced that if you had missed the show, exciting news was on the way. This could mean a Broadway transfer, but it could also mean the release of a CD with Will Butler's songs from the play. 

Another rumor puts forth the possibility of the current minimalist London revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard starring Nicole Scherzinger (former lead singer of the Pussycat Dolls) moving to Broadway, perhaps in November 2024. The musical version of Billy Wilder's classic film of faded silent film Norma Desmond was last seen on Broadway in 2017 with Glenn Close recreating her Tony-winning performance from the 1995 production.

Nicole Scherzinger in
the London Sunset Boulevard
Credit: Marc Brenner

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Holiday Catch-Up on Oscar Films

The holiday season has come to mean something much more important than celebrating goodwill and exchanging gifts--catching up on potential Oscar nominated films so I will have seen as many as possible on the big night, March 10, 2024. Since the last entry on this topic, I managed to see three more potential nominees and rewatched Maestro on Netflix.

Julianne Moore and Charles Melton in
May December
May December
: Previous Oscar winners Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore look to nab Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress slots for this bizarre indie which falls between comedy and drama (the Golden Globes has classified it a comedy). But newcomer Charles Melton has emerged as the front-runner for Best Supporting Actor, having won the New York Film Critics Circle and several other critics' group. BTW, have you noticed that almost every city and geographical area in the country now has its own movie critics' group, each bestowing its own set of awards? It used to be just New York and Los Angeles, now it's everywhere including the East Podunk Film Critics Circle and the Dead Cactus, Arizona Movie Reviewers and Fly Swatter Collectors Group.

Monday, December 18, 2023

Off-B'way Update: A Sign of the Times

g.  Yet another jukebox musical is headed our way. A Sign of the Times will feature music from 1960s pop
Crystal Lucas-Perry and Chilina Kennedy in
"A Sign of the Times" at Delaware
Theater Company.
Credit: Matt Urban

legends such as Petula Clark, Leslie Gore, and Dusty Springfield. Preview perfomances being Feb. 2 at New World Stage in advance of a Feb. 22 opening. Sign of the Times
 will star Chilina Kennedy (Broadway: Beautiful: The Carole King MusicalParadise Square) as Cindy, two-time Drama Desk nominee Ryan Silverman (Broadway: The Phantom of the OperaChicago) as Brian, Justin Matthew Sargent (Broadway: Spider-Man: Turn Off the DarkRock of Ages) as Matt and Tony Award nominee Crystal Lucas-Perry (Broadway: 1776Ain’t No Mo) as Tanya.

York Theater Company in association with Richard J. RobinPresident, Wells St. Productions LLC., produces. With a book by Lindsey Hope Pearlman (Roar!, Cassandra Complex), based on an original story by Richard J. Robin, the production features music supervision, music arrangements and orchestrations by Joseph Church (Broadway: The Lion King, In the Heights), choreography by JoAnn M. Hunter (Broadway/London: School of Rock, London: SuperYou), and is directed by Gabriel Barre (Broadway: Amazing Grace; Off-Broadway: Almost MaineThe Wild Party). 
A Sign of the Times had its world premiere at Goodspeed Musicals’ Norma Terris Theatre in 2016 and played a sold out, critically acclaimed run at the Delaware Theatre Company in 2018. 

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Broadway/Off-B'way Update: Stranger Things in London, The Effect at the Shed, Etc.

Louis McCartney in
Stranger Things: The First Shadow.
Credit: Manuel Hardin
According to Deadline, the newly-opened London stage version of Stranger Things, the long-running hit Netflix sci-fi series, is headed for Broadway. The spectacular production, subtitled The First Shadow, is the first in a trilogy of projected plays and according its co-director Stephen Daldry is a bridge between season four and season five of the series. Nothing is official yet, but the Deadline article states plans are in the works for a NYC run if the London box office and reviews are positive. Like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child which is still running on Broadway, Stranger Things includes dazzling special effects and has input by playwright Jack Thorne who won a Tony for his Harry Potter stage adaptation. Kate Trefry is the author and the "original story" is credited to the Duffer Brothers, Thorne and Trefry. The producers are Netflix and Sonia Friedman who has brought many London hits to Broadway including Harry Potter, Tom Stoppard's Leopoldstadt, A View from the Bridge and more.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Boston and DC Crix Chose Holdovers and American Fiction as Best Pix

Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Paul Giamatti, and
Dominic Sessa in
The Holdovers
The 2023 film award season continues to spread the wealth among a variety of pix, making this year's Oscar nominations harder to predict. The Boston Society of Film Critics and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association voted for their awards on Sun. Dec. 10 (same day as the Los Angeles Film Critics Association) and went in two directions. The Beantown scribes chose The Holdovers, Alexander Payne's comedy-drama about a misanthropic school teacher spending the holidays with a rebellious student and the school's cook, as best picture. The DC critics went for American Fiction, first-time director-writer Cord Jefferson's satire about an African-American novelist. Da'Vine Joy Randolph who plays the cook in Holdovers, continued her dominance of the Supporting Actress category, winning from both groups.  

Killers of the Flower Moon took top prizes from the NY Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review, while Zone of Interest won the Best Picture slot from the Los Angeles reviewers.

Sunday, December 10, 2023

LA Film Critics Pick Zone of Interest as Top Pic

Sandra Huller in Zone of Interest
The Los Angeles Film Critics Association has chosen Zone of Interest, Jonathan Glazer's chilling examination of the Nazi family living next to a concentration camp, as Best Picture in voting on Dec. 10. This bucks the trend of their New York counterparts and the National Board of Review, both of whom voted Martin Scorsese's Killers of the Flower Moon the outstanding flick of 2023. Sandra Huller also won for her lead performance in Zone and for her role in Anatomy of a Fall. She shared lead performance honors with Emma Stone of Poor Things. Last year, the LAFCA  eliminated male and female categories in the performance awards and gives accolades to the top two vote-getters in lead and supporting fields regardless of gender (the Drama Desk does the same thing.) All acting winners were women this year with supporting performance awards going to Da'vine Joy Randolph of The Holdovers (who has won every other critics award so far) and Rachel McAdams for Are You There, God, It's Me, Margaret. 

Film award season continues to be an interesting race with several candidates possible for the upcoming Oscar nominations. The Golden Globes and Critics Choice noms, coming out this week, should tell us more.

Book Review: A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump's Testing of America

(Bought at Central Books used bookstore in Doylestown, Pa for $4.95) Maybe I'm a masochist, but I felt I needed to read as many books about Trump as possible in order to understand what's going on right now and to be prepared if anyone tries to get into an argument with me about his lack of fitness for office. I bought this book thinking it would cover Trump's actions after he lost the 2020 election, but it was published before then and only goes up to the end of 2019. The Mueller report is the framing device for this overview of the first three years of Trump's erratic, impulse-driven administration. Rucker and Leonnig are experienced, detail-oriented reporters for the Washington Post and they deliver a dense, insightful accounting of his petty, ill-informed governance style. Cabinet members and administrators come and go like riders on an out-of-control merry-go-round. Policy decision are made off the cuff without research or advice from experienced experts. It's all Trump's gut and how he feels at any given moment. I wish I had kept a list of his bad decisions and actions, but I have a life.

A few that stood out for me: believing Kim Jong Un had nothing to do with the death of American prisoner Otto Warmbier (and not getting any sort of a treaty with Kim); withdrawing from Syria and lying to American troops that they only received a raise because he authorized it when it fact they had been getting raises for decades; believing Putin over his own intelligence agencies about Russian interference with the 2016 election. And that's not even counting the blunders of the COVID pandemic which happened after the book came out.

Current polls show Trump leading Biden. This is terrifying. Trump is reckless and dangerous. Just today on MSNBC, Anne Applebaum of the Atlantic convincingly argued that if elected, Trump will pull us out of NATO which could be catastrophic for the world balance of power and embolden Putin to take more than Ukraine. If you care about women's reproductive rights, you can kiss them goodbye. Look at what just happened in Texas. A woman whose health would be seriously impacted unless she gets an abortion was turned down by the state supreme court. Liz Chaney has said we are sleepwalking to a dictatorship. I can see backing a Republican like Nikki Haley if you are a conservative, but why would you willingly vote in a wanna-be dictator? And don't forget there will be no "adults in the room" this time. Just lapdogs and sychophants. This book documents Trump's reckless, ill-informed behavior. It's a warning and more people should read it instead of carping about false issues like Biden's age, transgender youth in sports or a bad economy which even Fox News admits is really doing well.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

NBR Awards Killers Best Picture

Killers of the Flower Moon with
Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio
was named Best Picture by the NYFCCC and the NBR.
Killers of the Flower Moon continues to slay the competition, winning its second Best Picture Award from a major pre-Oscar group. The historical film based on the murder of Osage Native Americans for their oil rights was the top pick of the National Board of Review after winning the same accolade from the New York Film Critics Circle last week. In addition, Killers won for Best Actress (Lily Gladstone, also a NYFCC winner) and Best Director (Martin Scorsese). Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto won for his work on the film as well as for Barbie which was also named one of the year's top films. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

B'way Update: Hell's Kitchen Transfers; Busch and Izzard Off-B'way

Maleah Joi Moon (right) in Hell's Kitchen.
Credit: Joan Marcus
Hell's Kitchen, the new musical employing the songs of and inspired by the life of pop singer-songwriter Alicia Keys, is transferring from its current home at the Public Theater to Broadway. Previews begin March 28 at the Shubert Theater with an opening set for April 20. The show runs at the Public until Jan. 14, 2024. Featuring a book by Pulitzer Prize finalist Kristoffer Diaz, direction by Michael Greif (Rent) and choreography by Camille A. Brown (for colored girls), Hell's Kitchen focuses on 17-year-old Ali, living in a cramped apartment with her single mom in Manhattan Plaza, finding love with an older boyfriend and discovering her musical talent with the aide of a commanding mentor. The score includes several Keys' biggest hits including "Fallin'," "Girl on Fire" and "Empire State of Mind" as well as four new songs.

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Two-time Tony Winner Frances Strernhagen Dies at 93

Frances Sternhagen at the 1995
Tony Awards
Two-time Tony winner and veteran character actress Frances Sternhagen passed away earlier this week at the age of 93. I always enjoyed her performances. One of the first shows I saw in NYC as a new resident was the Ellis Rabb directed revival of You Can't Take It With You which had been running for a few years. Sternhagen had replaced Elizabeth Wilson as Penny, Eddie Albert had taken over for Jason Robards as Grandpa, George Rose was the Russian ballet teacher, and Colleen Dewhurst as the countess-waitress (she was a riot). Also: Jules Feiffer's Grown-Ups (seen on a visit before I moved here), The Heiress (the second of her two Tonys, the first was for Neil Simon's The Good Doctor), Long Day's Journey Into Night at IRT (Drama Desk nomination), Edward Albee's Seascape, Steel Magnolias, Morning's at Seven, Terrence McNally's A Perfect Ganesh opposite Zoe Caldwell, and her last performance on stage at Manhattan Theater Club (a play called The Madrid I recall very little about except Edie Falco starred). In film as the "bitch from accounting" in The Hospital, the stingy librarian in Up the Down Staircase, and I seem to remember her as a psychiatrist treating pyscho John Lithgow in some thriller (Raising Cain). On TV as Cliff's mom on Cheers, Mrs. Marsh on those toothpaste commercials, and in Lanford Wilson's The Rimers of Eldritch and AR Gurney's The Dining Room on PBS. In The Dining Room, she played multiple roles including a little girl excited at the prospect of being taken to the theater by a free-spirited aunt much to her straitlaced mother's disapproval. Though she was many decades older than her character, she captured the spark of excitement and imagination of a child'd fascination with the stage and adult mysteries.

Friday, December 1, 2023

NYFCC Awards Flower Moon Best Picture; Etc.

Lily Gladstone won Best Actress from the NYFCC
for Killers of the Flower Moon.
Let the film award season begin. The New York Film Critics Circle is the first out of the gate with their picks for the best of 2023. Killers of the Flower Moon, Martin Scorsese's three-hour-plus epic of the murders of Osage Native Americans by greedy white folks for their oil, was named Best Picture and Best Actress (Lily Gladstone as Mollie Kyle). But Best Director went to Christopher Nolan for Oppenheimer which also won Best Cinematography. 

Friday, November 17, 2023

B'way Update: Tammy Faye Musical, Elton John Composes

Andrew Rannells and Katie Brayben in the
London production of
Tammy Faye.
Credit: Marc Brenner
The Almeida Theater production of the Olivier Award-nominated musical Tammy Faye, will transfer to a Nederlander Theater during the 2024-25 Broadway season. Tammy Faye features music by legendary songwriter Elton John, lyrics by Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears, a book by award-winning writer James Graham (Ink, BBC’s Sherwood), and direction by Olivier Award-winner Rupert Goold (King Charles III, Ink). The show opened at London's Almeida Theater in the fall of 2022. Casting, a theater and specific dates will be announced later.

The musical follows the roller-coaster televangelical career of Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker whose broadcasts reached audiences of 24 million at their peak and ended in scandal. Tammy was also the subject of the 2022 film The Eyes of Tammy Faye for which Jessica Chastain won the Best Actress Oscar, and Fall from Grace, a 1990 NBC TV film starring Bernadette Peters and Kevin Spacey. 

(Top) Jessica Chastain in The Eyes of
Tammy Faye
; (Above) Kevin Spacey and
Bernadette Peters in Fall from Grace.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

B'way Update: Queen's Gambit Musical

Anya Taylor-Joy in 
The Queen's Gambit on Netflix.
Credit: Phil Bray/Netflix
The Queen's Gambit
, Walter Tevis' best-selling novel about Beth Harmon, a female prodigy who takes on the male-dominated world of championship chess and served as the basis of a hit Netflix limited series, is in development as a Broadway musical and has just announced its creative team. 
Academy Award-nominated singer-songwriter Mitski will write the music & lyrics, playwright Eboni Booth (Primary Trust, Paris) will write the book of the musical, and Obie Award-winner Whitney White (Jaja’s African Hair Braiding, On Sugarland) will direct.  Joining Tony & Anthem Award-winning mini-studio Level Forward (POTUS, How to Dance in Ohio) on the producing team are Tony Award-winning actress and advocate Adrienne Warren (Tina), Prince Fellowship recipient Lawryn LaCroix (POTUS, Mike Birbiglia: The Old Man & The Pool), and Tony Award-winning producer Mara Isaacs (Hadestown). The Queen's Gambit was Netflix's most watched series, reaching an audience of over 62 million viewers in the fist month alone.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

B'way Update: Steve Carell as Uncle Vanya; Enemy News

Steve Carell in The Patient
Credit: Suzanne Tenner/FX
Oscar nominee Steve Carell (The Office, Foxcatcher, Little Miss Sunshine) will make his Broadway debut in the title role of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya in a new adaptation by Heidi Schreck at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater. Directed by Lila Neugebauer, previews begin April 2 in advance of an April 24 opening. Carell will be joined by Emmy nominee William Jackson Harper (The Good Place), Tony nominee Alfred Molina (Art, Red), Alison Pill (Three Tall Women), Tony winner Anika Noni Rose (Caroline or Change), Tony winner Jayne Houdyshell (The Humans), and Obie and Drama Desk winner Mia Katigbak (Awake and Sing, Henry VI). Carell plays the melancholy Vanya who runs the family estate with his niece Sonya (Pill). Their placid existence is turned upside down when her famous father (Molina) makes an extended stay with his beautiful, much younger wife (Rose). There is still one role, the neighbor Waffles, which was not included in the announcement.

Thursday, November 9, 2023

B'way/Off-B'way Update: Corruption at LCT; More Cabaret Casting; Etc.

Who will play Rupert Murdoch
in J.T. Rogers' Corruption?
Credit: Fox
Lincoln Center Theater will present Corruption, a new play by J.T. Rogers and directed by Tony winner Bartlett Sher (LCT's My Fair Lady, The King and I and South Pacific), at the Mitzi Newhouse Theater, previews beginning Feb. 15 and opening March 11. Based on Dial M for Murdoch: News Corporation and The Corruption of Britain by Tom Watson and Martin Hickman, this epic work centers on the phone hacking scandal of 2011 that involved Rupert Murdoch's media empire. Rogers' previous plays Oslo and Blood and Gifts played Lincoln Center. Oslo won the 2017 Tony, New York Drama Critics Circle, Outer Critics, Drama Desk, Drama League, Lortel, and Obie awards; and was nominated for the Olivier and Evening Standard Awards for Best Play. Casting will be announced at a later date.
More Cabaret Casting: Tony and Emmy winner Bebe Neuwirth (Sweet Charity, Chicago, Cheers) and Obie winner Steven Skybell (Fiddler in Yiddish) will join the cast of the upcoming revival of Cabaret, playing Fraulein Schmidt and Herr Schultz respectively. They join the previously announced Eddie Redmayne as the Emcee, Gayle Rankin as Sally Bowles, and Ato Blankson-Wood as Cliff. Previews begin April 1 at the August Wilson Theater with an opening celebration stretching over two night starting April 20 and reviews coming out on April 21.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

B'way Update: Huey Lewis Musical

Huey Lewis and the News
Huey Lewis and the News is the latest pop group to have their song catalogue serve as the inspiration for a Broadway musical. The Heart of Rock and Roll, a romantic comedy featuring the music of the group, will begin previews at the James Earl Jones Theater on March 29, 2024 with an opening set for April 22. 

The musical was seen in a production at San Diego's Old Globe Theater in 2018. A pre-Broadway workshop was held this past summer. Gordon Greenberg who directed the show in San Diego and for the workshop returns as stager. The book is by Jonathan Abrams with the story credited to Abrams and Tyler Mitchell. The score features such News hits as the title song, "If This Is It," "Hip To Be Square," "Stuck with You," and "Power of Love, " which is also heard in this season's musical version of Back to the Future. The press release describes the plot as being about "two 30-somethings who know exactly what they want from life--until they find each other." Reviews of the San Diego production offer additional details such as the protagonist is a guy named Bobby whose failed band leads him back to a corporate job where he meets his boss Cassandra. She also traded in her dreams for a tailored suit and a secure position. Of course, they get together by the final number.

“Working on our show has been so gratifying,” said Lewis. “I’ve always been a storyteller, and it’s a thrill to see my songs woven together in service of a fantastic, new story. That it will all take place on the world’s most prestigious stage–Broadway–just makes the ride that much sweeter."

Casting and further creative personnel will be announced at a later date. 
Matt Doyle, Katie Rose Clarke and cast in
the 2018 Old Globe production of
The Heart of Rock and Roll.
Credit: Jim Cox

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

B'way Update: Tveit and Foster Confirmed for Sweeney; More Casting; More Rumors

Sutton Foster and Aaron Tveit
will star in Sweeney Todd
Credit: Matthew Murphy
As reported yesterday and now confirmed, Tony winners Aaron Tveit and Sutton Foster will assume the roles of Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett in the current revival of Sweeney Todd at the Lunt-Fontanne. They will begin performances Feb. 9, 2024 for 12 weeks through May 5. Josh Groban and Annaleigh Ashford continue in the starring parts until Jan. 14, 2024....Tony nominee Ato Blankson-Wood (Slave Play, Hamlet) has been cast in the role of Cliff (originated by Bert Convy of Tattletales fame) in the upcoming revival of Cabaret, alongside Eddie Redmayne and Gayle Rankin. Ato Blankson-Wood said, "I am beyond excited to return to Broadway in Rebecca Frecknall's brilliant production of Cabaret. I recognize the weight and responsibility of telling this particular story at this particular moment and am emboldened by the fact that I'll get to do it alongside Eddie Redmayne and Gayle Rankin, two actors whom I admire so deeply. Cliff, like me, is an artist attempting to create and make sense of the world against a backdrop of escalating violence and hatred, I look forward to learning what he has to teach me."

Ato Blankson-Wood

Monday, October 30, 2023

B'way Update: Lempicka Confirmed; Plus Rumors

Eden Espinosa and George Abud
in Lempicka at La Jolla Playhouse.
Credit: Matthew Murphy
The musical Lempicka, based on the life of controversial Polish painter Tamara de Lempicka, will join a growing number of new musicals opening on Broadway this spring. After regional runs at the Williamstown Theater Festival and La Jolla Playhouse, previews begin March 19 in advance of an April 14 opening at the Longacre Theater. Eden Espinosa (also starring in The Gardens of Anuncia this season Off-Broadway) will play the title role and Tony winner Rachel Chavkin (Hadestown) will direct. The book, lyrics and original concept are by Carson Kreitzer and the music is by Matt Gould who also co-authored the book.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Book Review: Truly, Madly: Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier and the Romance of the Century

(Bought for $4.95 at Central Books, Doylestown, PA) Hollywood Reporter Executive Editor Stephen Galloway's detailed account of the intense, rollercoaster relationship between Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, two of the most glamorous stars of the 20th century, relies mostly on other biographies, letters, diary entries, and memoirs including those of Olivier himself. There are some original interviews and new insights into Leigh's misunderstood mental illness from psychologists. The emphasis is on the romance and break-up with additional commentary on their stage and film projects. Leigh was the big star when she unexpectedly grabbed the most sought-after female role in Hollywood history--Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind. She etched another screen memory into history with her Blanche DuBois in Streetcar Named Desire. Olivier had to take a back seat until he broke through with definite Shakespeare interpretations of Titus Andronicus, Henry V, Richard III, and Hamlet. Leigh's star faded as Olivier's burned brighter. A cruel industry with few roles for older women shut her out. Plus her mental instability drove Olivier away and into the arms of the more stable and centered Joan Plowright. A fascinating read, but I would have liked more information about the filming of The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone and Ship of Fools (in which Leigh played characters amazingly like herself). The cover photo is beautiful with both subjects laughing hysterically as they arrive at an airport somewhere. I don't know if the Oliviers were truly the "Romance of the Century." The Burtons (Liz and Dick) or the Duke and Duchess of Windsor may have that title.

Friday, October 27, 2023

B'way Update: Kenny Leon to Direct Our Town

Frank Craven, Martha Scott, and
John Craven in the original 1938
production of Our Town.
Tony winning director Kenny Leon, represented this season with the revival of Purlie Victorious, will direct Our Town, Thornton Wilder's 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, for the 2024-25 Broadway season. Casting, specific dates and a theater will be announced at a later date. 

The favorite of community and high-school theaters focuses on the town of Grovers' Corners, New Hampshire as a microcosm for the human condition as we view two typical families going through the stages of youth, marriage, and death. 

Our Town has been seen on Broadway a total of five times with the most recent revivals starring Henry Fonda (1969), Spalding Gray (1988) and Paul Newman (2002). An Off-Broadway 2009 production directed by David Cromer ran for 644 performances, the longest run of the play. A 1940 film version featured original cast members Frank Craven and Martha Scott as well as a very young William Holden. A 1955 TV musical version starred a younger Newman, Eva Marie Saint and Frank Sinatra. A later 1977 video staging was headlined by Hal Holbrook, Sada Thompson, Ned Beatty, Robbie Benson, Barbara Del Geddes, Ronny Cox, and Gynnis O'Connor.

Kenny Leon has recently staged productions of Suzan Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog (Tony Award for Best Revival), Ohio State Murders by Adrienne Kennedy, A Soldier’s Play, Fences, American Son and two revivals of A Raisin in the Sun garnering him a Tony Award for Best Director.  In the spring of 2024, he will direct the previously announced Broadway production of Home by Samm-Art Williams presented by Roundabout Theatre Company at the American Airlines Theatre.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

B'way Update: The Who's Tommy

Ali Louis Bourzgui (on table) in
the Goodman Theater production
of The Who's Tommy,
headed for Broadway in March 2024.
Credit: Liz Lauren
The reimagined revival of The Who's Tommy which had a hit run at Chicago's Goodman Theater this past summer will join other renovated revivals including Cabaret, Merrily We Roll Along, and The Wiz on Broadway. The musical based on The Who's 1969 concept album about a deaf, mute and blind pinball wizard will begin previews at the Nederlander Theater, to be vacated by Shucked in early 2024, on March 8 with an opening set for March 28. The Who's Tommy originally opened in 1993 with direction by Des McAnuff who will return as stager. McAnuff also co-wrote the book with The Who's Pete Townshend. The two reunited for this production to revise the script. 

Casting will be announced at a later date. 

Monday, October 23, 2023

B'way Update: Cabaret Stars and Dates Confirmed

Gayle Rankin and Eddie Redmayne
will star in Cabaret on Broadway
Credit: Mason Poole
Star casting and dates have been confirmed for the upcoming revival of Cabaret, the fifth Broadway production of the Kander and Ebb musical based on John van Druten's I Am a Camera and Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories. Oscar and Tony winner Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything, Red) will repeat his London, Olivier winning performance as the Emcee and Gayle Rankin (HBO's House of the Dragon) will play Sally Bowles, the tragic nightclub singer. This immersive production directed by Rebecca Frecknall began life in London's West End in November 2021 and went on to win seven Olivier Awards, the most for any musical revival. For the Broadway transfer, the August Wilson Theater will be transformed into Berlin's Kit Kat Klub of the play's setting with an in-the-round auditorium and "dream spaces" where audience members can enjoy pre-show entertainment, drinks and dining. Ticketholders will have timed entries to partake of the pre-show events.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Scorsese's Killers of the Flower Moon

JaNae Collins, Lily Gladstone, Cara Jade Myers
 and Jillian Dion in
Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon.”
(Apple Original Films)
Killers of the Flower Moon is Martin Scorsese's latest complex, massive epic, hypnotic and absorbing despite its three and a half hour running time (I didn't even go to the bathroom once). Based on David Grann's nonfiction book on the conspiracy to murder Osage Native Americans for their oil rights in 1920s Oklahoma, the film contains beautiful cinematic landscapes and matter-of-fact depiction of gruesome killings. Lily Gladstone is particularly impressive as Molly Burkhart, the Osage woman who is the central target of the plot. 

Robert DeNiro is the white businessman behind the murders and Leonardo DiCaprio is his nephew who marries Molly to get her oil rights, but who also loves her as he slowly poisons her. Jesse Plemmons has a quiet authority as the FBI agent who methodically unravels the series of slaughters. Cara Jade Myers delivers a strong supporting performance as Anna Brown, Molly's sister, a tough cookie who carries a gun in her purse. There are effective cameos by John Lithgow and Brendan Fraser. 

The film ends with a radio play reducing the horrific acts of death to a facile entertainment and as Robert DeNiro's character predicts, they are soon forgotten. 

The events were previously depicted in The FBI Story (1959) starring Jimmy Stewart. But in that propaganda piece for J. Edgar Hoover, the Osage murders were one episode in a sweeping saga of FBI triumphs. 

The 2024 Oscar race is now shaping up as a race between Oppenheimer and Killers, with Ridley Scott's Napoleon (set to open during Thanksgiving) coming up fast. Scorsese should have as many Oscars as John Ford (4), but he has only won one for The Departed. Scorsese is just as influential as Ford and has lost, usually to Hollywood favorite actor-directors Robert Redford, Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson, and Clint Eastwood. Will he add a much deserved second Golden Guy for this latest masterpiece? 

2023 Potential Oscar Nominated Films Seen So Far
Oppenheimer (34th Street AMC)
Barbie (Regal Union Square)
Asteroid City (Angelika)
Golda (County Theater, Doylestown, PA)
Killers of the Flower Moon (Regal Kaufman Astoria)

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Cutting the Cable Chord: Part 7: Troubles with Hulu

Since we got rid of cable, we've saved money, but there have been issues with Hulu Plus Live TV.

Sometimes when you replay a show you've recorded and already watched part of, it will start at the beginning instead at the part you stopped it. Then you have to fast forward. Last night there were buffering problems with the latest episode of The Amazing Race. I got about 20 mins. into the show and then it just stopped playing. No matter how many times I would go in and come out, the playback got stuck as they bearded brothers were hauling mattresses and the father and daughter from Texas were getting stuck at fish market roadblock. I even unplugged my TV and reset everything.

I finally had to buy the episode at Amazon for $3. I couldn't have watched it on Paramount Plus because I gave that streaming service up when they dropped the Tony Awards pre-show and it went to Pluto TV. 

This season of the Amazing Race has been fun. The episodes have been expanded to 90 mins. because of the actors' strike. The idea being that CBS needs to take up more space of non-actor-necessary content. They have a whole season of 60 min. episodes in the can as well. (The writers' strike has been settled but the SAG-AFTRA one drags on. Will it be settled in time for the delayed Emmys in January and the subsequent Oscars?) Another Amazing Race change is the elimination of charter flights since the COVID pandemic has lessened. So we're back to scrambles at the airport and travel agencies which I always found boring. No favorite teams yet.

The rest of the night I switched to Disney Plus for a Season Two episode of The Mandalorian. It was pretty exciting. The Mandalorian had to transport a frog-like alien and her eggs someplace but their ship crashed and they were chased by a horde of giant spiders.

I might try the Loki series on Disney Plus and I'm eagerly awaiting the new episodes of Doctor Who.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

B'way Update: Revised Suffs with Hillary Clinton as Producer

Phillipa Soo and Shaina Taub in
Suffs at the Public Theater.
Credit: Joan Marcus
After a sold-out, extended run at the Public Theater in 2022, the musical Suffs, Shaina Taub's sweeping chronicle of the women's suffrage movement, will be opening on Broadway at the Music Box Theater. The opening is set for April 18 (preview dates have not been announced.)  Lead producers Jill Furman and Rachel Sussman will be joined by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai as co-producers. 

Suffs which takes place from 1913 to 1920 and follows the myriad advocates and activists who fought for women's right to vote, features book, music and lyrics by Taub who also played Alice Paul in the Off-Broadway production. Casting for the Broadway production is to be announced. Leigh Silverman will again serve as director. Furman has told the New York Times the musical has undergone significant revisions by Taub including changing songs and reducing the running time.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

B'way Update: My Son and Casting Doubt

Rob Madge in his solo show
My Son's a Queer
(But What Can You Do?)

Credit: Mark Senior
Following acclaimed runs in London's West End and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Rob Madge's solo show My Son's a Queer (But What Can You Do?) will play Broadway this coming spring with previews starting Feb. 27, 2024 at the Lyceum Theater prior to an opening set for March 12. Madge wrote and stars in this autobiographical journey of one family as they explore their son's love of all things Disney, theater and their queer identity. Themes of pop culture love and self-discovery are woven through this Olivier-nominated one-person play. The action centers on Madge at age 12 as they create a Disney parade in their house for their grandmother. Madge, who is non-binary, has appeared in London productions of Mary Poppins, Oliver and Les Miz.
Rob Madge in
My Son's a Queer (But What Can You Do?)
Credit: Mark Senior

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Broadway Update: Tidbits

Scott Bakula
Both Purlie Victorious and Jaja's African Hair Braiding have extended their limited runs. Purlie will now play through Feb.4 at the Music Box and Jaja continued until Nov. 19 at the Samuel Friedman...Brooke Adams (Lend Me a Tenor, The Heidi Chronicles) replaces Jobeth Williams in Madwomen of the West, scheduled to open Dec. 11 at the Actors Temple Theater....Scott Bakula (NCIS New Orleans, Quantum Leap, Romance Romance) will headline a new musical The Connector at MCC Theater, previewing Jan. 12 and opening Feb. 6. The tuner about a rivalry at a 1990s newspaper features music and lyrics by Tony winner Jason Robert Brown (Parade, The Last 5 Years) and a book by Jonathan Marc Sherman (Women and Wallace, Clive)....Shucked will close at the Nederlander Theater on Jan. 14, 2024 after 28 previews and 327 regular performances....Here We Are, the final Sondheim musical, playing now in previews Off-Broadway at the Shed, has not invited nominating committees for either the Drama Desks or the Outer Critics Circle Awards and therefore has been deemed ineligible for those annual accolades.

Brooke Adams

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Cutting the Cable Chord: Part 6

Acquiring Hulu Live TV got us Disney Plus as part of the package. In addition to all the Star Wars series, the streaming service includes content from National Geographic which produced the Oscar nominated documentary Fire of Love about a French couple who were volcano experts. Up until the day they were killed by a lava explosion they were filming in Japan in the early 1990s, they documented their many expeditions with thousands of photographs, film and video. We watched it with commercial interruptions, which weren't too bad and I was able to add to the list of 2023 Oscar nominated films I've seen.

I also caught the Oscar-nominated short film La Pupille, about a group of Italian orphans during World War II who receive a luscious cake for Christmas, but the reverend mother plans to give it the bishop in return for much needed money. It was charming.

Updated List of 2022 Oscar/Other Award Nominated Pictures Seen:
All Quiet on the Western Front (Netflix)
The Banshees of Inisherin (Amazon)
Elvis (HBO Max)
Everything Everywhere All at Once (Amazon)
The Fablemans (Amazon)
Tar (an actual movie theater--Kaufman Astoria Studios)
Triangle of Sadness (Hulu)
Women Talking (Amazon)
Till (Amazon)
To Leslie (Amazon)--surprisingly moving little indie film with a great lead performance by Andrea Riseborough as an alcoholic ex-Lottery winner (also loved Allison Janney as usual)
Aftersun (Amazon)
Living (Amazon)
The Whale (Amazon)
Causeway (Apple TV+)
EO (Lufthansa Flight 0404--Frankfurt to JFK)
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (Netflix)
All the Beauty and Bloodshed (Amazon)
Navalny (HBO Max)
Fire of Love (Disney +)
Pinocchio (Netflix)
Puss in Boots 2 (watched half of it on Amazon)

Nominated Short Films:
The Flying Sailor (YouTube)
The Ice Merchants (YouTube)
My Year of D**ks (Hulu)
An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It (Vimeo)--I liked this one best. Very funny satire on stop-motion animation.
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse (Apple TV+)
The Elephant Whisperers (Netflix)
Haulout (YouTube)
The Martha Mitchell Effect (Netflix)
Stranger at the Gate (YouTube)--Very moving story about a former Marine who plans to bomb a mosque, but ends up converting to Islam after meeting the people there.
Nightride (YouTube)
La Pupille (Disney +)

Monday, October 9, 2023

Book Review: Sucker's Portfolio

(Downloaded on my Kindle for $2.99) As far as I can tell, this is the last of the Vonnegut fiction collections I have't read yet. I recently caught up with all his previously uncollected and unpublished works. I read Welcome to the Monkey House, his first published collection, in high school and should probably read that one again since I will understand it better. Sucker's Portfolio started as a Kindle Serial with each story--and an essay--dropped one at a time. Now as a collection, it also includes an unfinished sci-fi story, Robotville and Mr. Caslow which just ends abruptly in the middle of a scene.

I enjoyed Paris, France the most. This one did not touch on the usual Vonnegut dark subjects of war, outer space, etc. but focuses on relationships as three diverse couple share a train compartment on the way to and back from a vacation in the titular City of Light. Appearances are deceiving as each turns out to be totally different than what we expect from their initial descriptions.

Miss Snow, You're Fired also had some insightful characterization as a beautiful secretary enflames passions in a huge corporation, the site of many other Vonnegut stories.

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Book Review: Armageddon in Retrospect

(Hardback in good condition. Bought for $7.95 at the Bucks County Bookstore, Doylestown, PA) Still more Vonnegut as I continue on my quest to read all of his miscellaneous posthumously published pieces. This collection has the common theme of the horrors of war and what it does to normally good people. This has ten short stories, one long non-fiction piece on his experience as a prisoner of war during the fire-bombing of Dresden, a letter written to his family as he waits to be transported back to the States, his last written speech (given at Clowes Hall in Indianapolis by his son Mark after Kurt's death), and an introduction by Mark.

The terror and devastation of warfare hits the hardest in his nonfiction piece, Wailing Shall Be in All Streets. The litany of death and destruction is truly stunning. My favorite story was Guns Before Butter wherein three American POWs scratch out recipes in notebooks for all the foods they'll eat when they get home. Their 60-ish German guard is also made a fully realized human being. While Spoils, Brighten Up and Just You and Me, Sammy depict Americans who cross over the line into greed and plunder. The sci-fi story Great Day was confusing to me. The premise of soldiers from 2037 time travelling back to combat their 1918 counterparts didn't quite make sense. Was it for show for a 21st century world without war? It wasn't made clear. The Commandant's Desk imagines a world where the Cold War turns hot and Americans occupy Eastern Europe and Russia after conquering the Commies, turning out to be just as harsh and cruel as any other victorious invading army. The final title story is a weird fantasy on the Devil and Armageddon, dripping with irony.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Book Review: Look at the Birdie

(Downloaded from the Libby App and read on my I-Phone) Still devouring the miscellaneous works of Kurt Vonnegut, slowly working my way through all of his short stories. I should have read this collection of unpublished works before While Mortals Sleep since it was published first. This set of 14 stories is much darker in tone than Mortals. People get killed, disillusioned, framed and thrown in prison, and their nasty inner selves are exposed. The tone is set by the first story Confido in which a new-fangled doodad speaks your inner thoughts aloud to you and nearly ruins the inventor's family. Most of the tales are short and stabbing like knife wounds, the exception is Ed Luby's Key Club, a crime-soaked novella which reads like a nightmare noirish film script. An innocent couple is caught up in a web of danger when they leave a cheap tip for the titular club-owner, a mob boss. It's soaked with violence and sleaze, the resolution is ridiculous, but I had to keep reading it. Vonnegut had mastered the art of holding the reader by the proverbial throat and not letting go till the last sentence. Hall of Mirrors, Nice Little People and The Petrified Ants contain elements of sci-fi and fantasy with pointy edges. A Song for Selma returns to the whimsy of Vonnegut's other stories of a high-school band teacher and the joys and pain of teenage love. King and Queen of the Universe is a nice moral tale of the price of privilege and growing up. The collection is introduced with a letter from Vonnegut on his aims as a writer, offering an insight into his state of mind as he struggled to find his voice.